Austin photographer Leann Collins shoots weddings and African wildlife images, but it's her pics of T&A that are at the center of a copyright lawsuit she just filed against Houston publisher John Gray.
Strip-club afficionados might be familiar with Gray's magazines, such as Adult Quest, Wildscene, and Risque Business and others. Among advertising other services, they offer helpful directories of adult cabarets and massage institutions which we're sure are in no way handjob huts.
Collins' suit, filed in federal court, accuses Gray and some associated entitites of ripping off copyrighted photos from her website and using them in his mags, both in print and online. Collins estimates that, based on the normal selling price of her photos, the damages are in excess of $240,000. When this alleged breach was brought to her attention, the suit states, she asked Gray and his associates to correct the situation. The response was less than satisfactory.
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According to the suit, one of the companies that advertised in a Gray publication, Provocative Fine Art Models & Escorts, "used plaintiff's copyrighted photographs advertising blatant prostitution. The copyright notices are visible in defendant's advertisement run in Adult Quest Magazine."
When Collins sent an e-mail to the address in the advertisement, she received an e-mail from one Ginger Johnson titled "fuck you." Johnson then eloquently dived into the intricacies of public domain law, i.e.: "bitch your pics are public domain if ya don't wnt them usd don't put them on web ya dumb btch don't threatn me agin don't call I talked to mags they don't give a shit thers nothing ya can do so fck off."
We called and e-mailed Johnson and Gray, but haven't heard back. When we called the phone number listed in the lawsuit as Gray's home number, a guy who would not identify himself -- but who said he was not Gray and that it was not Gray's residence -- said he'd leave Gray a message. So, just to get that straight, the lawsuit listed the wrong number, but it just happened to be a number for a dude who knows John Gray. So we lucked out there.
Collins and her husband had no comment, deferring to the lawsuit. In the meantime, we're going to look closely at her photos to get a better understanding of the legal issues.